JCS Memorandum (JCSM 955-64) on Actions Against North Vietnam (first section missing), 14 November 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 628-630

14 November 1964

JCSM 955-64

[first section missing]

4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not concur with a concept of "tit-for-tat" reprisals nor with Ambassador Taylor's recommendation that the United States and the Government of Vietnam (GVN) jointly announce such a policy which ties our action to equivalency. "Tit for tat" is considered unduly restrictive, inhibits US initiative, and implies an undesirable lack of flexibility both as to the nature and level of response. Adoption and announcement of a policy of a "tit-for-tat" basis only would serve to pass to the DRV substantial initiatives with respect to the nature and timing of further US actions.

5. On 1 November, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended and hereby confirm that the following specific actions be taken:

a. Within 24-36 hours, Pacific Command (PACOM) forces take initial US military actions as follows:

(1) Conduct air strikes in Laos against targets #3 (Tchepone barracks, northwest), #4 (Tchepone military area), #19 (Ban Thay military area), #8 (Nape highway bridge), and the Ban Ken bridge on Route 7.

(2) Conduct low-level air reconnaissance of infiltration routes and of targets in North Vietnam south of Latitude 19 degrees.

b. Prior to air attacks on the DRV, land the Marine special landing force at Da Nang and airlift Army or Marine units from Okinawa to the Saigon/ Tan Son Nhut/Bien Hoa area, to provide increased security for US personnel and installations.

c. Use aircraft engaged in airlift (subparagraph b, above) to assist in evacuation of US dependents from Saigon, to commence concurrently with the daylight air strikes against the DRV (subparagraph d, below).

d. Assemble and prepare necessary forces so that:

(1) Within 60 to 72 hours, 30 B-52s from Guam conduct a night strike on DRV target #6 (Phuc Yen airfield).

(2) Commencing at first light on the day following subparagraph (1), above, PACOM air and naval forces conduct air strikes against DRY targets #6 (Phuc Yen airfield) (daylight follow-up on the above night strike), #3 (Hanoi Gia Lam airfield), #8 (Haiphong Cat Bi airfield), #48 (Haiphong POL), and #49 (Hanoi POL).

(3) Concurrently with subparagraph (2), above, the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) will strike DRV target #36 (Vit Thu Lu barracks).

(4) Combat air patrols (CAP), flak suppressive fire, strike photographic reconnaissance, and search and rescue operations (SAR) are conducted as appropriate.

(5) The above actions are followed by:

(a) Armed reconnaissance on infiltration routes in Laos.

(b) Air strikes against infiltration routes and targets in the DRV.

(c) Progressive PACOM and SAC strikes against the targets listed in the 94 Target Study.

e. Thai bases be used as necessary in connection with the foregoing, with authority to be obtained through appropriate channels.

6. As to the specific actions recommended above, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that initiation of our response by attacking targets in Laos and conducting low-level reconnaissance in the southern DRV will provide militarily useful operations within the immediate capabilities of forces in place and, at the same time, will serve to divert notice from the preparations and force deployments necessary for the ensuing stronger actions. Recognizing that security of this plan is of critical importance, they consider that external agencies, such as the VNAF, should be apprised only of those parts of the plan necessary to insure proper and effective coordination. The same limited revelation of plans should govern discussions with the Thais in securing authority for unlimited use of Thai bases.

7. The night B-52 strike on Phuc Yen airfield as the first major military response is designed to destroy a major component of present and potential DRV air capability, by use of an all-weather weapon system. The specific strikes recommended for PACOM forces during the next daylight will destroy additional DRV capabilities, including facilities otherwise available for CHICOM reinforcing actions, and set the stage for the follow-on US and VNAF operations. The recommended VNAF strike provides GVN participation and is within VNAF capability.

8. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the approximately 1600 US Government dependents should be evacuated from SVN in connection with the foregoing, to commence concurrently with the first daylight US strike against the DRV. In this regard, they note that there are an additional 3100 nonmilitary US nationals and US-sponsored personnel in country. Objections to their evacuation have been made primarily because of the adverse psychological impact upon the Government and people of SVN. It is considered that these impacts will be more than offset by the results of military actions now proposed. The demonstrated vulnerability to VC actions of carefully-secured areas makes retention of US dependents after the start of overt US military operations no longer prudent. Their withdrawal is appropriate in light of the proposed increased tempo and scale of activity.

9. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have requested and will consider CINCPAC's recommendations for any augmentation forces required, to include increased air defense, a Marine light antiair missile battalion from CONUS to Da Nang, and any tactical air or CVA augmentation. A follow-on memorandum on this will be forwarded to you.

10. In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that:

a. We have reached a major decision point in Southeast Asia;

b. The United States should continue to pursue its stated objective of keeping Laos, Thailand, and SVN free from communist domination. Military actions such as recommended herein are necessary contributions to this objective; and

c. Early US military action against the DRV would lessen the possibility of misinterpretation by the DRV and Communist China of US determination and intent and thus serve to deter further VC attacks such as that at Bien Hoa.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Earle G. Wheeler
Joint Chiefs of Staff

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